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Study in Northern Thailand Finds that Fruits, Vegetables in Student Lunches Heavily Contaminated with Pesticides

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CHIANG MAI – Vegetables and fruits found in lunches for students under the government-sponsored lunch programs are almost 100 percent contaminated with pesticides and 99 percent of the urine samples from students and teachers in four provinces were tested with organophosphate, a deadly toxic pesticide that attacks nervous system.

The above alarming findings were the result of a research jointly conducted by Thai Education Foundation, Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Field Alliance of Chiang Mai University and Greenpeace Thailand during July 2017-October 2018 on student lunches in 55 schools in Chiang Mai, Pathum Thani, Sakon Nakhon and Phang-nga provinces.

Vegetables which are widely used in student lunches which were tested include carrot, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kale, long bean and tomato.  However, only two types of chemicals were tested – organophosphate and pyrethrum because organophosphate are widely used in insecticides for fruits and vegetables.

Thai Education Foundation secretary-general Marut Jatikate said that the most alarming findings appear to be the organophosphate residue found in 99 percent of the 436 urine samples from students and teachers in the four provinces.

Organophosphate poisoning symptoms include increased saliva and tear production, diarrhea, vomiting, small pupils, sweating, muscle tremors and confusion.

He said that the tests this time focused on two chemicals – organophosphate and pyrethrum – but they should have covered more toxic chemicals.

Nevertheless, he said findings from this research would be sent to the schools and parents of students in order that they would change the menu of student lunches but switching from mass-produced vegetables and fruits to organic vegetables and fruits which should be safer.

Besides the unsafe fruits and vegetables, Mr Marut said meat, meat balls and sausages used in student lunches were also found to be contaminated with borax and formalin.